How Making Social Media a Centerpiece of Experiences Can Create Lasting Value for Consumers

Spaces need to be 'Instagram-worthy'

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Not so long ago, experiential marketers and their brand clients were keen to throw around the term “Instagram moment” during the strategic planning of an activation. Will it be upon entry? At the bar? Near the DJ booth? The idea was that one particular point within a space had to be earmarked for capturing social content, usually more for the brand’s sake than the consumer’s.

We’ve come a long way in a very short time.

Now, the best experiential marketing agencies are much more dynamic in their approach to social media. They’ve evolved beyond creating activations with social media in mind to building activations for the social media-minded. The entire experience is the Instagram moment versus being confined to a singular photo booth. It became an Instagram museum.

The move toward socially optimized experiential campaigns aligns with advertising’s shifting priorities, as brands are investing more than ever before in social media. In the first quarter of 2017 alone, social media spending was up 60 percent year over year.

Experiential’s concentration on Instagram specifically is strategic as well, as Instagram drives the most engagement per post than any other social network: 84 times more than Twitter, 54 times more than Pinterest and 10 times more than Facebook, according to Sprout Social.

Good experiential marketing is taking Instagram optimization to the next level: it’s giving people a dynamic, fully-Instagrammable space in which to actually do something.

The idea of complete Instagram optimization took its earliest form in visually appealing spaces—we all know the success story of the Museum of Ice Cream by now—all we had to do is check our Instagram feeds. People came, they saw, they selfied and not much else needed to happen. It wasn’t about what you did at the Museum of Ice Cream as much as what you Instagrammed. That, ostensibly, was the entire point.

Good experiential marketing is taking Instagram optimization to the next level: it’s giving people a dynamic, fully-Instagrammable space in which to actually do something. The doing something part is as vital as the Instagramming part. Otherwise, in marketing terms, it would just be a content photoshoot.

So what does this look like in practice? For an experiential campaign to truly resonate on social and compel attendees to share their experiences, the most important components are the design, innovation and interactivity of the activations. Spaces must be visually arresting, engaging, totally original, dynamic and, most of all, surprising.

It’s not enough to brand a bar for a launch event or improve a lounge space at a conference or tradeshow. The best activations are those that will transform spaces, transport attendees and transcend expectations through design, flow, engagement and functionality, creating a series of meaningful moments so enthralling that people can’t keep it to themselves.

The demands of experiential to bring a brand to life raises the bar on social optimization and challenges marketers to meaningfully and seamlessly blend the brand’s products, services or ethos into a dynamic, highly photogenic and visually engaging space.

Experiential marketers are up for the challenge. We see a socially optimized approach to experiential as not just the future of the industry but as a way to continue to elevate the design, tech, functionality and consumer-understanding elements of what we do.

We also know that full social optimization of experiential adds immense value for brand clients, as a highly-shared event will generate social buzz and media coverage beyond what their respective outside agencies in these fields are already working toward.

It’s well past time that experiential marketers move beyond the Instagram moment to the full social optimization of the entirety of the environments they’ve created. This will raise the bar and challenge the industry as a whole to create more valuable experiences for both our clients and their consumers. And in experiential, that’s not only a win-win, it’s a must.